Made with cream cheese (and no eggs), these lemon cookies are the softest cookies I’ve made to-date. Melt-in your mouth and flavored with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest (not artificial extract), they’re slightly tart, rolled in sugar, and utterly irresistible.
Let’s talk, for a moment, about lemons. About the difference between the flavor of a real, bumpy-skinned, straight-off-the-branches (or, in my case, straight out of the grocery store bin) lemon and artificial lemon flavoring. It’s all the difference between the snazzy taste of tartly embodied sunshine gently, delightfully, shocking your taste-buds (my taste buds are puckering just thinking about it), and that of a fancily bottled bathroom-cleaning agent with an extract label slapped on the front.
When it comes to lemon flavoring, I do discriminate.
Full disclosure: I’m sure I’ve used lemon extract on this space at least once before, and I’m sure that I’ll use it again. Hypocrite? Perhaps. But I promise that I use lemon extract only in situations where it’s appropriate, where the flavoring is subtle and where lemon isn’t the key shining flavor in the recipe (I don’t want to put you through all that hard zesting and lemon-squeezing work for nothing… trust me I’m all about shortcuts).
But for these cookies, real lemon is absolutely key.
Made with cornstarch and cream cheese (and, of course, butter) they are truly the softest cookies I believe I’ve ever made. They’re easy, too; zesting the lemon is the hardest part, and maybe that’s just because it always feels like an arm workout and when my arm is tired after 3 seconds I’m reminded of how bitterly out of shape I am (no time to go to the gym when there are cookies to be made).
There’s no egg in this cookie dough, so I might strongly suggest that you sample** the dough and flavor it to your tastes if you are a huge lemon-fanatic. I made these cookies 7 (billion?) times and worked out the precise amount of lemon juice (please don’t increase the lemon juice, it’ll make your cookies flat), but you have a little bit of leeway with the lemon zest that goes into it. I recommend using two level, un-mushed tablespoons, and then add up to a third tablespoon if you really have a craving for tartness.
**Please always consume raw cookie dough at your own risk — I have heard that there are links of raw flour to E. Coli
Melt-in Your Mouth Lemon Cookies
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature, 1 stick
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2-3 Tbsp lemon zest
- 2 1/4 cup flour
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup sugar -- for rolling
In a large bowl with stand mixer (or using an electric hand-mixer) cream together cream cheese and butter until well-combined.
Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Stir in vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest and beat briefly on high-speed until well-combined (pause to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl).
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, corn starch and salt.
With mixer on low-medium speed, gradually stir flour mixture into butter mixture. Pause occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl.
Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to chill.
Before removing dough from refrigerator, preheat oven to 350F.
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and roll cookie dough into 1 1/2 Tbsp-sized balls
Roll in additional sugar, place on parchment paper and slightly press down.
Bake cookies on 350F for 11 minutes -- cookies will still be very soft and bottoms will be just barely golden brown. Allow to cool completely on sheet before removing.
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